November 3, 2019

Content Intelligence

Content Intelligence is a new problem brought to you by open data, knowledge and the API revolution. This problem diminishes the value of an old adage -- ‘knowledge is power’. It turns out that those who have more of 'it' are worse off. Think GM vs. Tesla; Wall-Mart vs. Amazon; Disney vs. Netflix! Think again.

Knowledge & Power

Wikipedia has a narrow definition of ‘Content Intelligence’ which caters to Marketers who write for machines (SEO, et. al.), however it’s a good place to start thinking about the topic  —

My interest in broader — the whole ecosystem of knowledge that should be optimized to cater to an Expert’s Mental Model making it ripe for decision making. In this sense the content intelligence is a collection of — News, Documents, Data, Applications that helps the audience to stay at the top of decision making with the satisfaction they deserve.

A better articulation of the subject of our interest ought to be —

‘Content intelligence represents the systems and software that transform content data and business data into actionable insights for content strategy and tactics with impact.’ [Ref. Colleen Jones, Article on AMA]

Big Picture

Welcome to the Digital Age. At this stage one can expect nothing less than overwhelming, mis-information and diminishing-trust from individuals and institutions (Govt., Media & Pundits). Most surprisingly, the experts now don’t trust their own expertise. In my research in various fields, experts feel a lack-of-trust with themselves because they don’t know ‘everything’ — I-don’t-know-what-I-don’t-know phenomenon!

If the individual freedom movement across the world wasn’t enough, this freedom-of-information is a new driver for global unrest, tribalism, as well as nationalism and separatism frenzy. However if you follow history and are a leaning optimist, you will think this is an opportunity to shape a few new concepts for the future.

One of the greatest impacts of digital in government is that everything that was a matter of a processes, communications, notices, opinions and personnel bios is now out on the ‘Internets’ as digital content (data, document or application).

Open data and knowledge has flooded the ‘Internets’. Most of the websites (and applications) cater to good user experience. The information architecture and content strategy supports pushing content via Web, Mobile or APIs. And, then there’s Google — one can find anything across silos.

Unintentionally, problems have transcended into new dimensions. Now the need from information is far more complex than to locate an item in a store, or find a specific dataset for analysis — it’s more about what to do with it. The new needs from information is about unraveling trends, models, insights or impart learning. The impact of this problem is paradoxical — those who have more of the content are not better off. Their business are disrupted by outsiders who do not have an abundance of content, unless you are in a protected industry. But if you are in a protected industry (Finance, Healthcare, Pharma) your problem is ‘diresome’ — you need to look at trends, insights, and models to stay compliant or risk a legal/repetitional risk.

The impact

Most of the consumers are overwhelmed, dissatisfied and are frustrated when they are consuming these sources to meet their goals. However surprising this realization may be, this has been known to intellectuals for some time. There have been quite a few Nobel Prizes along these lines [Ref. Choice Theory 1986, Institutional structure and functioning of the economy 1991, Search Frictions 2010]. Barry Swartz popularized the idea of ‘Paradox of Choices’.

These theories are unraveling a few phenomena which may sound unintuitive at first —

  • When there’s more choices and information, decision making becomes difficult.
  • Difficulty (hard to model in numerical terms) is a function of volume, stakeholders, content facets, structure (or absence of it) and audience needs.
  • And, when by some logic, if customers make a choice, they are seldom content or satisfied.

This is a big area for emerging technologies (AI & ML) to make a huge impact. This may partly inform the citizenry about how to make decisions but has the potential to transform big business, governments as well as global agendas.

In the last decade or so, I have been helping companies organize content, shape information architecture, build content model, establish governance and drive the highest order of Customer Experience.

Below are some of the areas of my interest where I have led initiatives that tackle the Content Intelligence, in the capacity of a Consultant and Advisor —

  • Legislative Tracking with The Economist
  • Regulation & Compliance with Politico
  • Global IP Platform with USPTO
  • Trade & Economic Data with The World Bank, Department of Commerce, CBP, IRS
  • Education and Public libraries, with ProQuest and Alexander Street

Usage Scenarios

To those who are new to this concept, let’s discuss some areas where this problem is extremely severe.

Global Intellectual Property Protection

A large corporation (Samsung, IBM or Tesla) wants to protect their ideas and inventions. They do it via Patents. However they don’t know who the closest competition is, or who might have already addressed it (Prior Art discovery case). They file for US Patent, but don’t know how to go global without spending tons of money on various agents in different countries/region (Patent Family Search). The irony is that most of this data is free and open (or cheaply available), but that does not conform to the Innovators’, Patent Attorneys’ or Examiners’ mental model. Today’s organizations spend a huge part of their innovation and R&D resources into managing and defending innovations, as against creating and testing new ideas. This may explain why outsiders like Tesla, Netflix, Amazon gain an edge in a matchup between David and Goliath.

Audience Personae: IP & Legal Affairs, Attorneys & Agents, Innovators, Examiners

Food Safety, Drugs, Biosciences, MedTech

The US economy’s largest component is Health & Food. FDA, HHS, EPA, USDA (and 30 other Fed. Agencies) shape the policies that keep us healthy. But think about the firms on the receiving end — they deal with changing regulations, warnings, guidance and are often surprised by penalties & inspections. In order to maintain good corporate health, they hire lawyers, strategists, analysts and operational folks to keep abreast with the Legislations, Regulations as well as the Competition. This is time consuming and adds a significant cost to the consumers. Individuals who work in these areas are glued to their computers, phones to access information that may fit with their needs. They access multiple systems, websites, subscriptions in order to develop their own theories, recommendations or communiques. They don’t dread their job but they wish they could do deeper-thinking than wasting time scrambling for information.

Audience Personae: Government Affairs, Regulatory Affairs, Lobbyists, Management Consultants, Operations, C-Suites

Global Supply Chain

A furniture business has 3 brands and has stores spread across Northern California. The business depends on as much as his designer brand appeal as his global supply chain that furnishes his demands. In any given year he imports upwards of 10,000 cargo containers from across the world. He invests a great deal of time and attention on procuring and inventorying his goods. The most frustrating part is — lack of visibility, process & procedures with CBP for cargo clearance, duties & taxes. On top of  which he has to deal with multiple parties — CBP, Customs Brokerage, Logistics providers. His problems are made worse with multiple parties, multiple applications and tons of open information. This is the least glamorous part of his business. But it shouldn’t be.

Audience Personae: Business Owners, Supply Chain Professionals, Government Strategists, Economists, Management Consultants & Advisors

Trade and Economy

On the other hand this problem is even worse for the professionals — government personnel, economists and business advisors who perform the job to model scenarios that inform the executives and policy makers. They spend time accumulating all of these economic and trade data to help policy makers draft new policies and regulations. (to be elaborated with The World Bank, USITC & Trade Data).

Audience Personae: Policy Makers, Government Advisors, Trade & Unions


Paradox of Choices, Barry Schwartz
HBR: More Isn’t Always Better – The Paradox of Choice: Why More Is Less (Harper Perennial, 2005)

Nobel Prize for Economics, 2010.“for their analysis of markets with search frictions”.
Awardees: Peter A. Diamond, Dale T. Mortensen, Christopher A. Pissarides

Nobel Prize for Economics, 1991.
Ronald Coase for his discovery and clarification of the significance of transaction costs and property rights for the institutional structure and functioning of the economy.

Nobel Prize for Economics, 1986.
Choice Theory: Synthesis of the theories of political and economic decision-making
Awardee: Professor James McGill Buchanan, George Mason University, Virginia, USA

Thought Leader — Colleen Jones, CEO, Content Science

AMA Article: What Is Content Intelligence?